Stewardship 2014

The Stewardship Sermon

A Message on Stewardship from the Treasurer

The Practicalities of Pledging

photo of pew label

A Message on Stewardship from the Treasurer

In completing my first year as Treasurer at the Church of the Advent, this is my first opportunity to write to you regarding the Advent's annual Stewardship Campaign, and I hope that I am able to share the financial goals and mission of the church and the particular aid and discipline of stewardship as ably as Thatcher Gearhart has done for many years.

The direct mission of our campaign is ultimately a worldly or a secular one:  to provide the financial support for our parish over the coming year; to keep the lights on and the building in good repair; to compensate our clergy and our staff; to provide the resources for our primary function of worship; and to support the programming and outreach of the church to our parishioners and to the broader community.

With these goals in mind, I would like to offer a brief and broad overview of the financing of the parish that may be helpful in considering an appropriate pledge for 2014:

(1)  The parish currently operates and for several years has operated with a balanced budget, and funds are carefully husbanded and well-managed in support of the needs of the church.  This has been an important goal of the parish leadership, and I hope that it makes pledging members confident that their contributions are being well allocated and well spent.

(2)  In order to maintain this balanced-budget discipline, spending has remained nearly flat for more than a decade, which translates to a decline in real terms, after accounting for inflation, of more than a quarter over that time period.  There are thus areas of our budget that could benefit from additional resources.

(3)  Our historic church building—lovingly constructed upon pilings in a swamp by our forebears—results in very high fixed costs for the parish, costs that have to be borne regardless of our other programming decisions.  In addition, our identity as a city parish located in Beacon Hill means our administrative and clergy costs are arguably higher than those of a comparable suburban parish.  In practical terms and when put together with the above comments, this means that increased donations from members of the church flow through quickly to increased resources for programming, ministries, and outreach at the church, as much of our basic budget is composed of spending over which we have limited control, leaving a minority of our resources available for further ministries and programming. 

(4)  The Advent is fortunate to have a sizeable endowment, composed of monies left by former parishioners and friends of the church, which defrays a portion of our costs.  In recent years, the portion of our budget supported by our endowment has risen.  While we maintain a conservative and sustainable approach to our use of these resources, it is arguably unhealthy for a parish to rely too heavily on the generosity of those who have come before.  It is most likely that those early donors hoped their funds would be used for even greater ministries and outreach, not basic operating expenses for the church, and I would encourage this as a consideration as you decide upon your pledge.  Our forebears lived within their means and went further to produce a surfeit of resources for the future.  How ought we to respond to their stewardship in our own tithing?

(5)  Finally, for those who prefer hard numbers, there is this:  in round numbers it costs about $1,350,000 to run the Church of the Advent every year, which comes to about $6,500 per pledging member or family.  How does your pledge compare?

These facts about our financing are important considerations as we evaluate our pledging responsibilities for the upcoming year, but they are of course not the full story.  As I mentioned above, this is the secular and worldly framing of the church's needs, such as we might read in an annual letter from any of a host of charities and worthy institutions in the city of Boston.  But the Stewardship Campaign at the Advent has a deeper and more central purpose:  to encourage the spiritual discipline of giving among individuals and families in our parish, and in so doing, to support our corporate worship and outreach that we might serve, as the Gospel would have it, as a light to our community, our city, and our nation.

On October 27 Fr. Wood preached a sermon, which I commend to all who have not heard or read it, in which he asked the congregation to pray together a collect for stewardship that stresses the dangers of individualism in our society and asks us to remember that money cannot be solely a private matter for Christians, who are enjoined to return to God a portion of that which he has given to us.  This message corrects one theological mistake often made in our culture:  the error of considering material wealth to be the just rewards of our own efforts, necessitating no further obligations and requiring no sense of humility or of thanksgiving, which ultimately results in the privileging of individual desires over the needs of our communities.  As Christians, we recognize that all that we have is a gift from God, and in the great catholic metaphor of the universal church, that we are all members of the one body of Christ, where each of us is tasked with subordinating our individual wants to the health and flourishing of that great corporate union:  “The body is one, though it is made up of many members; and though all its members are many, they form one body:  so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)

Yet just as this metaphor focuses our attention on the unified body of Christ in the community of the church, so also does it emphasize the individual responsibilities of the members of the body, each of which has been set its appointed task, without which the body itself would be unable to thrive:  “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” (1 Cor. 12:17).  Just as there is spiritual danger in an aberrant individualism that focuses on private desires while ignoring communal responsibilities, so too is there an equal and opposite danger in a false communitarianism that enables the single individual to lose himself in the crowd, and by so doing avoid those responsibilities that are properly his.

The Church should feed the poor.  But if we read the gospels, we will know this means that each one of us is tasked with feeding those in need with the bread of this world and with the spiritual food of the gospels.  The Church should worship the Lord.  Again, each one of us is commanded to sing praises unto our King, and we cannot satisfy ourselves that some other Christians somewhere else, some other members of the body of Christ, are gathering to worship in his name.  Just as one cannot have faith for another, so also one cannot do the Christian duty of another, for each member has its own responsibility to the body, and the eye cannot perform the task of the ear, nor the foot the hand.

And so it is with stewardship.  Tithing is a collective activity in which we gather the resources that our church community needs to worship God, teach his Gospel, and spread his love in the coming year.  And yet this community effort always simultaneously remains an individual one, for it is ultimately in an individual and personal way that God commands each of us to return to him a portion of that which he has given.  Each of us has our own resources to offer, and they differ just as the functions of the various members of a body differ.  And yet each has its place, its own importance, and its own role in the upbuilding of the Church.

In this stewardship season, as members of the one body of Christ, I would like to ask that each of us consider the corporate needs of our parish community as I outlined briefly at the beginning of my letter, succumbing neither to a selfish individualism or a false communalism that sees stewardship as a task for others more well situated than ourselves.  Whether we are poor widows or rich merchants, we each have an essential task, to give as has been given to us.  May God bless the offerings of our parish and the stewardship of her resources in this year and the next, and in saecula saeculorum.

Yours in Christ,

Adam C. Rutledge
Treasurer

GRACIOUS GOD, giver of all we have and hold as stewards; grant the people of this church a deep and abiding awareness that all things come from you—our health, our incomes, our jobs, our talents and our generous impulse. Send your Holy Spirit to help us as we swim against the rising tides of materi-alism, envy, individualism and greed in our culture. When we are tempted to think of money as a private matter, remind us that you have asked for part of what we are given, to be re-turned to you as a symbol of our awareness that you give all we have. And further, help us to help each other in this grace of giving, for you are the lover of our souls and call us to noth-ing less than transformation in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect on Stewardship from Fr. Wood’s Sermon on Stewardship Sunday, October 28, 2013


What follows is the practical mechanics on pledging and how it works at the Advent.  If you have been pledging for decades, you may skip the rest of the brochure.  If you haven’t, or if you have questions about how pledging works at the Advent, please read onwards!

In any case, please return your pledge card to the Advent in a collection plate or by mail, no later than the December 1, the First Sunday of Advent.

Membership at the Advent

Anyone is always welcome to worship at the Advent.  And as we all hear from the pulpit every Sunday, we very much try to extend a warm welcome (and generally succeed, I think!) to all of our visitors.  Once a visitor becomes more than just a visitor, however, and decides to make the Advent his or her Christian home, then it is time for that visitor to become a member of the Parish.

To be a member of the Church of the Advent, one must commit both to regular worship at and regular financial support of the Parish.  At the Advent, as is the general Episcopal tradition, we commit to support the church financially with a pledge of giving for the upcoming year through the annual Stewardship Campaign.

By our Parish by-laws, only members of the Parish who make a recorded financial contribution are allowed to vote at the Annual Meeting, and only financially supporting members of the Parish may serve as Vestrymen and Officers.  By Parish tradition, we have extended this requirement to the other ministries in the Church, from acolytes to ushers to readers to church school teachers, and on and on, all of whom must also be pledging members.

Membership in the Parish is a way of formalizing your spiritual discipline of regular worship in and regular support of God’s holy church.  If you have not supported the Advent financially in a regular way, but think of it as your church, your spiritual home, or your Christian family, this is an especial call to you.

Pledging

Pledge cards are available at the back of the church or you may contact the parish office to get one.

Once you have made the decision to pledge, hopefully prayerfully and joyfully, you can fill out your card and return it to the Advent in a collection plate on any given Sunday, with the First Sunday of Advent, which is December 1, being the deadline of sorts.  We make the First Sunday of Advent our deadline for three reasons:

There are a few questions the pledge card will ask, other than the amount of your annual pledge—such as whether you want to pay weekly or monthly, or whether you want envelopes for your pledge or not.  You may answer these as you like, as there are many ways to follow through on your pledge. 

Record-Keeping

Once your pledge card is received by the Parish, it will be recorded in the Parish office.  It then becomes your responsibility to fulfill the pledge during the upcoming year.  Some people put a check weekly or monthly in a pledge envelope and drop it in the collection plate.  Others simply have their bank or online bill-pay send a regular check.  If you give cash, though, it is important to put the cash in an official pledge envelope so that it can be recorded as given by you, and count toward you pledge.

Your financial contributions will be recorded by the Parish office toward the fulfillment of your pledge.  A statement will be mailed to you in April, July, October, and early in December, with a record of your pledge and your donations to date, so that you can keep track of how you are doing on your promise, or make sure that the Parish office hasn’t missed something (which very rarely happens, I am pleased to say!).  And, of course, every January the parish office will send you a statement for tax purposes.

Questions or Discussion

Members of the Stewardship Committee would love the chance to talk to you individually about stewardship and giving at the Advent.  As we have said before, our Stewardship Campaign is not first and foremost about collecting dollars to pay for the church’s electric bill, though that is important.  It is about giving all members of this our Christian family a formal opportunity to deepen our relationship with God through the sacrificial giving that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ asks of each of us.  Let us all use this Stewardship Campaign as a chance to examine our relationship with money and all worldly things, and to ask God to help us to redirect our eyes and our hearts to those things of eternal value.

If you would like to speak with a member of the committee, please feel free to do so directly, or contact the office if you would like to have someone contact you.

Members of the Committee:
Barbara Boles Carolyn Lewis
John Boyd Peter Madsen
Mark Davidson Paul Roberts
Michael Gnozzio Adam Rutledge
David Lapin Steven Sayers
Philip Le Quesne Fr. Warren
Fr. Wood
Thatcher Gearhart, Chairman

 

offering plate